The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

Breath Control Game for Swimming Lessons

Writing about this activity has  “I Saw Esau,”  playing over and over in my head, a song made famous by the Ames Brothers in 1956!  At any rate, if you’re looking for a fun breath control game for swimming lessons that will take the monotony out of your rhythmic bobs, your learn to swim students will certainly enjoy this one:

This is not an activity for true beginners, as children would need to have some basic air exchange skills as a prerequisite for this activity.   It would work perfectly, however,  in the Swim Lessons University Swim Strokes 201 or 202 Lesson Plan though for sure!

The Swim Lessons University Instructor Certification program and curriculum is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

For more information on the Swim Lessons University Swim Instructor Training or our Online Swim Instructor Certification courses, make sure to visit us at   or call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).


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October 18, 2016 at 3:07 am Comments (0)

Freestyle Kick Games for Kids

Do your students ever get bored, or even lazy while you’re having them practice their freestyle kick in swim lessons? Here’s a fun little game you can incorporate called “Cat and Mouse” that has proven to be both MOTIVATIONAL and FUN! 

For more detailed instructions on “How to Teach the Freestyle and Backstroke,” check out our “SWIM STROKES 201/202/203” video course!

You can even become a Swim Lessons University CERTIFIED SWIMMING INSTRUCTOR to teach the “Swim Strokes 201/202/203” class through our ONLINE SWIM INSTRUCTOR TRAINING AND CERTIFICATION COURSES!

The Swim Lessons University Instructor certification is an internationally recognized alternative to the Red Cross WSI. And when you utilize SLU, you can even SPECIALIZE to teach in specific courses or you can certify to teach then all! Best of all, when you choose Swim Lessons University you can do all your training in the comfort of your own home, at your pace, and at a fraction of the cost!

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October 5, 2016 at 2:38 am Comments (0)

Tips for Sport Parents and Youth Coaches

DON’T Tell Your Kid: “Do Your Best!”

“Do your best” is an overused, inaccurate cliché.  What we really mean to say is “Try your best.”  When it comes to performance in sports, sport psychologist Dr. Alan Goldberg cites that athletes, coaches, and sport parents should emphasize the “controllables” and take emphasis off the “uncontrollables” (U.C.’s).

Here are two examples:

  • To win is a “U.C.” You can “try to win,” but you won’t always win even when you “do your best.”  You have no control over the competition, the conditions, the officials, etc.  Winning is a “U.C.”
  • To have a best performance is a “U.C.” You can “try to perform your best,” but that doesn’t ensure that you’ll “do your best,” i.e., an all-time best game, a best performance or even a good one.


Swimming – Swimming a personal best time every event or winning a race.

Basketball – Making every lay-up or scoring 20 points every game.

Baseball – Fielding every ball hit your way, never striking out, or pitching a perfect game.

Soccer – Scoring on every shot attempt, never turning the ball over, etc.

What is controllable?  Simply “trying your best.”   I’ve been coaching and observing youth sports for 30+ years.  Here’s what I CAN’T say:

I can’t say that I have ever seen a swimmer race and try to lose.   I can’t say I’ve ever seen a basketball player try to miss a lay-up.   I can’t say that I have ever seen a baseball player try to make an error or strike out.   I can’t say that I have ever seen a soccer player intentionally miss a shot on goal!

My seven-year old’s baseball coach recently made him run a lap for missing a ground ball.  Do you think this is the best coaching practice to encourage improvement or to get a player to correct an error?  Consider this:  He didn’t try to miss the ground ball.   He is a young boy in his first year of organized baseball boy just learning to field groundballs.   Lastly, my son genuinely wants to please the coach–not let the coach down.

So how should the coach have responded to the error?  Instead of making him run a lap, the coach could have responded with one of two forms of feedback:  1. A correction that would help the young player identify why he misfielded the ball.  2. Give positive feedback to encourage him and communicate that he, the coach, believes in his young shortstop.  This would give the coach’s player the confidence to get the next one…but have a seven-year old run a lap for missing a ground ball?  Fear-based correction doesn’t work with young children.  Quite the contrary, fear-based correction scares kids, breaks down their confidence, and makes them feel unsure of their abilities.

Now if my son said, “Hey coach!  You’re just a BIG BUTT and you don’t know how to coach!”  That’s a reason to make him run a lap!  But that’s not what happened.  This was simply a seven-year old child who misfielded a ground ball as he was “trying his best.”

As a sport parent to three sons and as a third generation, educated coach–it pains me to see children being punished, hollered at, and belittled for making mistakes.  Young athletes don’t intend to disappoint us.  They don’t try to make mistakes.  They don’t try to lose games.  They are actually “trying their best.”  Do they always perform at their best?  No.  But neither do professional athletes!   All we should expect from any athlete is that they work hard, that they listen to their coaches, and that they try to correct mistakes when given the appropriate constructive feedback.

As sport parents and youth coaches we need to encourage our young athletes when they make mistakes–not punish them, belittle them or give them consequences and ultimatums.    Save those strategies for when they exhibit bad behavior, disrespect adults, or say mean things to their teammates—but not for making a human mistake while “trying their best.”  Ironically, the same coaches and parents are the ones who are baffled when a kid doesn’t want to go to practice or wants to quit.

The Positive Coaches Alliance (PCA) has created coping mechanism tools like “Flush it” to help athletes forget about mistakes.   In his book “Winning Every Day,” legendary football coach Lou Holtz discussed an acronym he called “W.I.N.” which stands for “What’s Important Now.” W.I.N. reminds players to stay positive and in the “now” not focus on any negative in the past.  When you’re thinking about a mistake you’re not helping yourself or your team in the present.  In football, the great defensive backs don’t remember getting beat for a TD until they see it on film the next day.   All the great ones develop an ability to stay in the now and focus on the task at hand.

In addition, athletes who focus on performance goals vs. outcome goals are almost always more successful.   An example of a coach who kept his team focused on performance goals vs. outcome goals is Legendary UCLA Basketball coach John Wooden.   It is well-known that the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division I Basketball history NEVER talked about winning to his teams!  Yet we have Little League and Pop Warner coaches emphasizing the importance of winning the next game at every practice.

If you want to teach a kid to become a winner, you have to teach him how to use failure and adversity in order to achieve success.  You have teach him how to persevere and work through mistakes and failure, not fear them.  One of the greatest basketball players of all-time, Michael Jordan, sums this up perfectly in “Why I Succeed:”

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

Instead of “hitting them when their down” youth coaches and sport parents need to encourage our young athletes when things don’t go their way.  More than ever this is the time they need reassurance.  This is the time they have to hear that we believe in them.   We have to teach them the great trait and characteristic called perseverance so they learn HOW to overcome adversity–NOT fear it.   Babe Ruth once said, “Every strike brings me closer to the next homerun.”

Personally I am thankful for my son’s coach and I admire anyone who unselfishly volunteers their personal time for our youth.  We wouldn’t have youth sports without them.  But I also challenge the leaders of sport organizations like Little Leagues, YMCAs, and Recreation Departments to make sure that those volunteer coaches spend some of their volunteer time on coaching education.

The American Sport Education Program (ASEP) has a great slogan, “Athletes first, winning second.”   When ASEP’s says “athletes first,” they are referring to coaching kids in a manner that puts their psychological and emotional well-being ahead of all else.

When your athlete is confident in himself because of your coaching–that’s when you know that you have really made a difference.  As the New York Yankee great Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.”

This is true in all sports.   Youth sport coaches must understand that while we are teaching physical skill, developing our athletes confidence is equally important, if not more important than the physical skill itself.

So the next time you are tempted to say “Do Your Best,” remember it’s “TRY YOUR BEST…” and you’ll be doing a much better job at teaching young athletes to feel and become successful!

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September 21, 2016 at 1:02 am Comments (0)

Swim Instructor In-Service Training Ideas

Do you find that after training your swim school staff and getting into your swim lessons that you or your instructors start having new questions on how or what to do in different situations?  

Do you even notice that certain techniques and strategies that were addressed in the original swim instructor training are still lacking by new instructors?

We do!  So at Swim Lessons University, we decided that the perfect solution to address these problems would be to hold an In-Service Staff Training session!  AND NOW–without traveling one mile—YOU AND YOUR STAFF can be a part of our amazing session!

In this brand new video—SLU Executive Director Jim Reiser answers 25 EXCELLENT QUESTIONS from his local staff, and he provides 25 simple and practical techniques to help every instructor improve their classes!

Here is a Small Sampling of the 25 Questions:

  1. How do I correct parents in my Parent & Toddler classes without appearing confrontational?
  2. How do I put the parent at ease about taking an infant or toddler underwater?
  3. What do you do in situations where you have a child who refuses to get in the water?
  4. What do you say to a parent who sends their child to the pool with goggles and they aren’t even putting their face in the water yet?
  5. Do you ever tell kids to close their mouth when breath holding?
  6. Do you let kids Doggie Paddle if they aren’t putting their face in the water?
  7. Do you have any tips on how to help students pick up the Freestyle Side Breathing easier?
  8. How do you get a child to flex both feet in breaststroke?

Again, these are just some examples of the 25 common questions asked by SLU swimming instructors….  As always, you will find this In-Service Swim Instructor Training Video to be information-packed, high energy and fast paced. You and your staff will be new and improved in 90 minutes or less–guaranteed!

Order your copy today at




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September 14, 2016 at 10:38 pm Comments (0)

Swim Lessons Results are Dependent Upon Effective Communication

So last night my wife Heather and I were winding down and watching reruns of “King of Queens” and she fell asleep on the couch.  I decided to head to bed and let her sleep.  Well a few hours later, our five-year old Nolan goes downstairs and decides to curl up on the couch with her in the middle of the night.  He then proceeds to wake her up and asks:  “Can we go upstairs and sleep in your bed?

Heather says: “Okay, but just for little bit.  Then you need to go back to sleep in your bed like a big boy.  You go ahead up and warm the bed up for us and I’ll be up in 5 minutes.”

Nolan responds: “I have no idea what you’re saying to me!” LOL!

This leads me to our choice of words and lingo when teaching young children to swim.  Too often we try to impress the parents and use advanced terminology.  While it may sound good to the parents, more often than not our young students don’t understand what we are trying to convey to them.  In my 5-Year old Nolan’s words:, “I have no idea what you’re saying to me!”   If they don’t understand what we are telling them, learning will be hindered.  On the contrary, if a Swim Instructor uses the K.I.S.S.  technique (Keep it Simple Stupid), children will learn to swim faster.

If you’d like to learn the teaching cues and terminology we have tested and tried specifically for children in our Swim Lessons University courses, visit our website and learn more about our Swim Instructor certifications, DVD and Online video courses, and swim lesson plans today!

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January 19, 2015 at 11:05 am Comments (0)

Swim Instructor Common Questions

Dear Swim Professor:

I want to ask you how you deal with young children who have fear in water? I’ve heard about lots of different approaches. Some say put them underwater so they’ll be forced to learn to swim. Others say let them play and have fun until they feel ready. And with these children to you think it’s better to give them support aids like life vests so they can just play in the water? Or will that delay their learning how to swim and help them rely on support and lose confidence in their own ability to swim without support?

Thanks for taking the time to read my question! I’m hoping you’ll be able to answer quickly.

Thanks again,

Dear Chavie,

I admire your dedication on teaching children how to swim. What is just as impressive is that you are taking the initiative to research the best way to do it. What I am going to do in this blog is give you my short answer, and refer you to other blogs that I have already written on your common, but excellent questions to give you more detail.

1. Always use a child-centered approach. NEVER force. The child’s enjoyment of the process is just as important as the outcome. In fact, it is more important.
2. While unstructured play is good and encouraged, you can and should also incorporate age-appropriate “activities” in your swimming lesson setting. In other words, you make learning to swim feel like play, though you are actually teaching the child how to swim. This is paramount when teaching preschoolers how to swim.
3. If you use one of the SLU approved “Progressive Flotation devices” CORRECTLY, your students will not only learn to swim faster, but swimming will be a more enjoyable experience (and a safer one).

Here is what I would recommend that you do:
1. Go to SEARCH BOX on the right side of this blog page and type in the following topics:
            Swim 101
When you search these keywords, you will find more specific information AND more thorough answers to your questions. Many of them also include video examples as well.

2. The second thing I would recommend is that you consider taking our Swim Lessons University courses. All courses are video-based and you can take the certification exams online. Swim Lessons University training and certification is now being used by YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Swim Schools, Pool Management companies, and private swimming instructors in 31 states and 11 countries.

Based on your questions today, I would get started on these Swim Instructor Training courses:
1. Teach Like a Pro – The Foundations of Teaching
2. From Tears to Cheers – How to Help Children Overcome Their Fears (audio program)
3. Swim 101 – A Comprehensive Video Course for Teaching Young Children How to Swim

Once you go through the video course, then  go to Instructor Tools to take your online swim instructor certification exam. We also recommend 3 hours of practicum training per course with a Swim Lessons University certified Learn-to-Swim Professional.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at or CALL us toll-free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

Thank you!

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January 9, 2014 at 1:32 pm Comments (0)

The Art of Teaching Children to Swim

The art of teaching children to swim means that sometimes you have to be creative, independent, spontaneous, practical, and even rule-bending.  In the end, it’s about what works best, what engages your students  the most.  One of the easiest ways you can make learning fun for young learners is to tap into their imagination.  Research from the John Hopkins School of Education illustrates the significant benefits from tapping into the imagination as it also stimulates a calming effect on a child’s emotions.  How is this instrumental to those of us teaching preschoolers that are non-swimmers (Swim 101)? 

This calming effect turns on more circuits between “the feeling and thinking brain,” and integrates the right prefrontal lobe’s direct responses to emotions with the left prefrontal lobe’s ability to regulate these emotions. This allows the brain’s CEO to do its’ job, helping the child:

•         better control his or her impulses

•         manage negative emotions such as fear and frustration

•         soothe or comfort his or herself

•         move out of defensive behaviors

When you teach the Swim Lessons University Swim 101 curriculum to young children, you will experience the beauty of this approach first hand.  And when you can make swimming lessons for young children more playful; when you have the children engaged and using their imaginations, you are creating an atmosphere where your students are bound to excel and experience the joy of learning to swim.

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December 9, 2013 at 4:50 pm Comments (0)

How to Teach Down Syndrome Children to Swim

Dear Swim Professor:
I have a 1:1 class with a 9 y/o boy with Down syndrome. He a very able, capable child and he absolutely loves the water but his previous teacher has completely confused his understanding of bubbles/breath in Freestyle.
Could you/would you give me some strategies, or links, or where to find printed material which will help me to teach him please?

-Mira. 😀

Dear Mira,

Thank you for your commitment to being the best swim instructor you can be, and thank you for your question. While we don’t currently have a specific program available on teaching children with Down syndrome, if you are looking for video examples, I think you will find that the techniques and tips shown in our Teach Like Pro DVD course and Teaching Children with Autism will work very well for you.

In addition to the Swim Lessons University video courses, here are 12 TIPS for Teaching Swimming to Children with Down Syndrome:

1. INDIVIDUALIZE. Focus your student. Learn firsthand his needs and capabilities.
2. EMBRACE IT! Don’t underestimate what a difference you can make in your student’s life!
3. MOTIVATE. Use his abilities and interests to capture his enthusiasm.
4. CREATE SUCCESS. Give him reasons to feel successful.
5. FOCUS. Don’t overwhelm him with trivial things and focus on ONE thing at a time.
6. DEMONSRATE. Show him what you want. Don’t just tell him. Kids with Down Syndrome are usually excellent mimics. Show him and say, “Do this.”
7. USE SIMPLE WORDS AND SHORT SENTENCES. Use learning cues and short sentences that are to the point.
8. FEEDBACK. Give specific feedback.
9. PRACTICE. Keep lessons short (no longer than 30 minutes). In terms of his general schedule, the parents may want to schedule a less structured activity before his swimming lessons. Alternating between structured and less structured activities is generally a good idea.
10. TRANSITION TIME. Give plenty of simple verbal cues when you are going to move from one activity to another. You could say, “In 5 minutes, we will clean up and get ready for Show & Tell. In 3 minutes…. in 2 minutes, 1 minute,”and then count down “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – it’s clean up time!” This really helps with transitions (moving from one activity to another.)
11. SHOW & TELL. You might consider having some “Show & Tell Time” at the end of each lesson. This would serve as a wonderful bonding time which you will both really enjoy at the end of his structured swimming lesson. He could show you his favorite book, toy, or even dance for you. Children with Down Syndrome tend to like dancing. Your “Show & Tell” time will also serve as a transition or reminder that the “end of the lesson” is coming.
12. PARENT’S INSIGHT. Talk candidly with his parents. They’re experts and can tell you a great deal about their son’s special needs and abilities.

The last thing I would suggest is to learn as much as you can about Down Syndrome. I would suggest visiting the following organizations websites:
National Down Syndrome Society
1.800.221.4602 | (English)
National Down Syndrome Congress
1.800.232.6372 | (English)

Woodbine House publishes an impressive collection of low-cost books and DVDs on Down syndrome, including a Parent’s Guide (in English and Spanish) and materials for teachers. Call 1.800.843.7323 or visit:

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December 2, 2013 at 5:45 pm Comments (0)

Swim Lessons Activities: Teaching Preschoolers How to Flutter Kick

When you can provide a positive, playful environment in your swimming lessons that also produces lots of quality repetition for your preschoolers, you are guaranteed to have success.   This is all possible because your students are fully engaged and having fun.  Here is an example of one of the kick activities for young children that will be featured in the 2nd Edition (coming in 2014) of Swim 101 Certification Course video and swim lesson plan:


This particular video was shot in 1999.  While children enjoy it just as much today, we will be making a few tweaks for the 2nd Edition Swim 101 Course Video:

1.  We now use the “thicker, super sized noodle” which is especially helpful when you have young 3-year olds just learning their balance or larger children in which the small noodle isn’t buoyant enough to give them the appropriate amount of support.

2. The instructor comments, “nice and straight legs.” That is an exaggeration. We really don’t want the legs perfectly straight AND it would be very difficult, let alone ineffective to kick with “straight legs.” But since young students generally bend the knees excessively, feedback cues such as “straighten the legs out” can be effective even though you don’t mean “literally straight.”

3.  When manipulating the legs, Swim Lessons University now recommends a technique we call the “Sack of Sugar.”   Watch this video to see how to do it:

4.  We now use the smaller nets as you just saw in the video demonstrating the “sack of sugar.”   If you would like to purchase the smaller nets, email jreiser@swimprofessor

Hope you enjoyed this post!

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November 8, 2013 at 3:25 pm Comments (0)

Butterfly Teaching Tips and Wetsuits for Swimming Lessons

Today’s blog is in a Q & A Format, as I answer questions from a North Carolina Instructor:

N.C. Instructor: When you are manipulating a student’s arms on the “Butterfly-Inchworm” stationary drill (as seen in the Butterfly 301/302/303 Instructor Certification Video Course),  are your legs squeezing the child’s left leg, or both legs? I worry only slightly because I know that there are some parents who might be uncomfortable with their child in this position with a male teacher. Am I being really weird worrying about this? I will have 3 male swim instructors on my staff. The rest are female.

Swim Professor:  Great Question.  In the stationary drill, I do have the student wrap his legs around one of my legs.  I do this in order to isolate part of the skill so their is less distraction.  However, I do advise male instructors especially to AVOID this technique  for the same reasons you mentioned.  Even though our instructors are not alone with the students and their parents and other spectators can see that this is a teaching technique, it is not worth taking the chance that the instructor’s intentions would even be debated.

N.C. Instructor:  I’ve always just had the kids stand on the pool bottom while I manipulate their arms on a butterfly stationary drill. I guess it isn’t as good as in a horizontal position since the kids aren’t really able to “feel” the proper recovery and body dolphin motion in a vertical position.

Swim Professor:   There is certainly nothing wrong with having the students stand to practice the recovery phase of the stroke as part of the learning progression.  But yes, the more realistic the position the better going forward.  In other words, you may find that going through the movement while the student stands on the bottom of the pool is very valuable to introduce the skill.   But as you repeat that in future classes it may lose some of it’s value, and you may find that it is more important for them to start “feeling it” while in the actual swimming position.

 N.C. Instructor:  My last question is: What kind of wetsuit do you wear while teaching? I like yours that you wear in the videos. It looks comfortable and warm, but not too constricting.

Swim Professor:  I personally prefer the Henderson 3mm Front Zip Shorty.  I got mine from Diver’s Supply for $120.00.  Not cheap, but the front zip is much more comfortable for teaching than a traditional rear zip you would use for scuba diving.  For your students, you can find wetsuits for as little as $30 online at  We really like the Konfidence Warma Wetsuit for children.  There are several wetsuit styles available that are great for swimming lessons, including wetsuits for babies and wetsuit shorties for kids.

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November 6, 2013 at 1:59 pm Comments (2)

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